Make Me

A few years ago Circuit Court Judge Roy Moore hung two plaques containing the Ten Commandments in his Gadsden, Alabama, courtroom—and he started what may become one of the biggest legal showdowns of modern times. Those plaques quickly attracted the attention of—who else?—the American Civil Liberties Union. Take those plaques down, the ACLU demanded—they violate the separation of church and state. Judge Charles Price of the Montgomery County Circuit Court agreed—and he ordered Judge Moore to remove the Ten Commandments. But in a move that astounded observers, Judge Moore refused to do it. “I’m... sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Alabama,” Judge Moore declared. “Those constitutions are founded upon a... belief in God. My display of the Ten Commandments... is simply [an acknowledgment] of God.” Alabama Governor Fob James, Jr., immediately threw his support behind Judge Moore. Judge Price’s order violates Judge Moore’s First Amendment rights, the governor declared. And in a speech that sent shock waves across the country, he added: “I will use all legal means at my disposal, including the National Guard and the state troopers, to prevent the removal of the Ten Commandments from Judge Moore’s courtroom.” After recovering from its shock, the ACLU accused Judge Moore and Governor James of tearing up the Constitution. ACLU attorney James Tucker huffed, “I think that there are serious questions here about whether the governor believes that this is a nation of law or of men.” Exactly right! Both Governor James and Judge Moore do believe in a government of law. That’s why they’re willing to stand up to judges who impose their personal opinions on Americans and call them “law.” As Governor James explained, “If we accept all judges’ orders, we don’t have a government of law, we have a government of men.” Well, the ACLU may be fuming over Judge Moore’s audacity, but polls show that the people of Alabama are delighted. Their attitude reflects a mounting frustration that the American judiciary is out of control, that laws are no longer being interpreted as they historically have been—in accordance with our own cherished moral traditions. American rage at the courts arises from a conviction that judges are acting arbitrarily to remake society in their own image. I wrote about this very issue in the journal First Things last November. In a symposium called “The End of Democracy,” I and others wrote that the courts are threatening the very concept of self-government by usurping the role the Founders intended for the legislature. Somebody’s got to challenge them, and say "enough is enough." Which is exactly what Alabama’s Judge Moore and Governor James are doing. And now, Alabama’s attorney general says he will appeal—The issue will go to a higher court. Regardless of the outcome, Governor James is warning that he will allow no judge—state or federal—to take down the plaques. The only way they’ll come down, he says, will be if President Clinton federalizes the National Guard and orders it to remove them. Now, no one wants a constitutional confrontation. But somebody has to call the courts to account lest, as Patrick Buchanan writes, the true power in our republic be passed “from the people to what Jefferson called the ‘despotism of an oligarchy.’ ”


Chuck Colson


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